This was absolutely marvelous.
Look, any book out there promising a quirky city that is twisted and disturbing and magical is sure to catch my attention. I just really love the trope of incorporating a city into the cast of characters, leading to the opportunity to see some excellent world-building and scheming and much, much political intrigue.
Creepy cities for the win, is what I’m saying.
New Reynes was delightful to read about it. And Amanda Foody’s killer world-building skills were allowed the ultimate chance to show off with this set up, and I was over here screaming HELL YES when the little tiny details of the city were described. But I’m getting waaaay ahead of myself here. I was even planning to have an easily-comprehensible list for y’all, too. So give me a sec while I set that up, please?
Let’s do this.
LIST OF LOVES
• The world building, the world building, the world building. This honestly has to be seen to be believed, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try and get the message across. This is a fantasy, obviously, centered around a characteristic city: New Reynes. And what nailed everything down for me was the inclusion of the little, seemingly-minuscule details, like:
-the perpetually overcast sky
-the names of the streets
-the fact that a particular street is covered in glitter
-the city’s signature treat (saltwater taffy, if you wonder)
-the type of architecture (!!!!!): gothic
-the name of the local newspaper
(And this one really impressed me:)
-the famous brand names of clothes and car manufacturers
Please, do yourself a favor and read over that last bullet point again, please. When was the last time an author did this, hmm? NO ONE DOES THIS. Ever. *whispers* Not even Leigh Bardugo. Or even the Queen of World Building VE Schwab (so does that make Amanda the queen now? Yes, yes it does. I don’t make the rules). But the inclusion of designer names and such is so. important, especially when visiting the “richer side of town”, or such. How are they richer? How can you tell? And all that.
•Enne Salta. Hi, hello, my name is Nina and I am looking to apply for the position of Enne’s manager/consultant/BFF. Because Enne (have I mentioned how much I like the name, by the way?) is AWESOME. She isn’t a broad buff fighter, she takes pride in being an educated lady-in-progress with manners and etiquette, and she loves dark red lipstick (yaaassss girl) and ginger snaps. #BLESS. I love Enne. I love her style. I love that she has vulnerabilities and misgivings and yet is anything but a static character.
Major character appreciation here.
•Levi Glaisyer & Co. Ooh I LOVE Levi. He’s the Iron Lord, has investment scams running, and can sass people half to death. And he has ombré curls, apparently? WHICH SOUND SO COOL.
Although he was much less ruthless than I expected him to be? #SoftGangLeadersFTW. I mean, he does do some fighting and knifing and shooting, but a conscience was definitely there. Which isn’t bad by any means. But do be aware he won’t be a Kaz Brekker (<33333) figure, so. Don’t misplace your expectations.
bUT HAVE I MENTIONED THE OMBRÉ CURLS.
I’m jealous. And curious.
OH. And I absolutely loved his relationship with Jac, a fellow Iron. Yay for friendship. Yay for loyalty. Their scenes were definitely among the best, and not enough people are pointing it out?? Give these two your full appreciation, guys. They’re awesome.
•Amanda Foody’s WRITING. I love her writing style, I do. Oh, and by the way: let it be known that this isn’t the first Foody book I pick up! I actually started with DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY after many recommendations/death-threats-if-I-don’t-read-it from friends. Unfortunately, I had to put it down after 70ish pages because that purple thing is HUGE and my Goodreads challenge last year was at a time crunch (though I definitely plan on picking it back up again, rest assured) but I remember noticing how lovely Amanda’s writing was and her wicked world building skills (licorice cherries!). So ACE OF SHADES was no different, obviously. In fact, if someone blindfolded me and read me a paragraph of some obscure work of Foody’s, I think I’d be able to tell the work was hers. She has quite the unique writing voice.
Oh, but for ACE, at least, I do have a tiiiiiny critique on the writing: the “censoring” of cussing. Look, I personally don’t cuss (in case you couldn’t tell), and I don’t like to hear cussing, but I would much rather, nay, I’d PREFER to see the actual word written out as opposed to the use of substitutes. When in a tense scene, the sentence “the bullet hurt so mucking much” or “muck this city” kind of lessens the gravity of the situation, because it’s a bit, dare I say, funny. So is the use of an asterisk, as in f*ck, like some other books do. Nooo censoring, please. You either cuss or you don’t. Do not straddle the line.
(This is a subjective complaint. It does not affect the shiny five star rating, obviously. I am not mean.
Not today, at least.
•Why hellooo there, Diet Romance™️, 65% Less Calories Than Your Leading Romance Brand®️. Okay, there were definitely some sparks flying between Enne and Levi, but it was kept to a minimum, because, um, CREEPY CITY AND MISSING MOTHERS. So I loooved the rationality everyone had, and the way that bullets started flying the moment they tried to catch their breath, reminding everyone and the reader what was actually at stake here. Though, I must confess I have a bit of a reverse-psychology tendency when it comes to ships: the more reserved the author is in handing out the romance rations, the harder I ship them.
And you bet I shipped these two delightful dorks desperately trying not to show emotion while everything around them goes to hell.
I’m aware that this review is not so helpful because it mainly consists of violent flailing and shouting of appreciation. BUT THATS BECAUSE THIS BOOK IS PERFECT AND I HAVE FEELINGS THAT MUST BE RELEASED.
Oh. And let it be known that I finished this in a record 2 days (a record for ME, slow reader extraordinaire) because THAT PACING WAS ON FIRE. So were some buildings, too.
I really don’t have more to say. This book. Read it. It’s amazing and Amanda Foody is a genius.
Oh, and thank you, Harlequin, for the ARC! I screamed when this showed up on my doorstep and may have frightened the neighbors.